Most people who love football are probably aware that it has its origins in England. Its very earliest origins date back to the Middle Ages, but the game more as we know it today developed in the mid 19th century. There’s plenty of information around the web on the history of football – so we won’t bore you with those details, but for any keen historians, England is a great country to tour from a purely footballing history perspective.
The FA Cup is the oldest club competition in world football, for example, first held in 1872 – whilst the Football League in England was the first league in the world. It was established in 1888 and included professional men’s association football clubs from both England and Wales. The 12 founder members of the original football league were Accrington Stanley, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley FC, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 12 teams agreed to play 22 games playing each other home and away once. Two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw.
Now Preston North End won that inaugural league title and that would have been a good place to start a tour as it was home to the country’s National Football Museum until 2012 – when it moved to Manchester! Still, that city has a bit of a footballing heritage of its own – and isn’t a bad place to start a tour.
The first winners of the FA Cup, meanwhile, were “Wanderers” based in London and no longer in existence. The first team to win the old trophy that’s still around today was Blackburn Rovers, winners in the 1883–84 season and for the following two years. No club has managed this feat since. Blackburn haven’t won an FA Cup, though, since 1928, so if you think they can break the spell this year, they’re 150-1 chances in the FA cup betting.
It would be quite feasible for tourists to take in games featuring all 12 inaugural league members over the course of a few weeks, whilst also going to Wembley for a tour and watching the currently biggest names in English football as well. Most of the big ground do organized tours for football fans and many of the grounds offer something extra for tourists. What’s more, various big tour operators have tapped into the growing soccer tourism market and offer specialist packages for fans.
For example, Thomas Cook currently offer a Manchester United – Arsenal package which includes three star hotel accommodation for a weekend at € 243 per person. A similar deal to take in the two main giants of north west football (until Man City crashed the party in recent years) Liverpool FC versus Manchester United at € 370 per person including accommodation in three star hotel.
Of course – many football tourists prefer to organize this all themselves and go around the grounds sampling traditional fare like hot Bovril and pies in the depths of winter as part of a rather masochistic desire to sample English football how it used to be not long ago. This is, after all, where it all began.